Last Updated January 15th, 2008

I Shoulda Called It Chicken

All parents have some sort of food battle with kids. It’s just how these things work. If your kids are like mine, there will be some meals where your kids would have loved it… if you had only called it chicken.

Somehow chicken is the magic word for a lot of kids. I’ve learned that I can avoid a lot of dinnertime arguments if I agree with any child who calls a meat “chicken,” regardless of what it really is.

I’m thinking back to one night when I told my daughter we were having fish for dinner. This was when she was a little kid, and sometimes picky as little kids are, but this was far from the first time she had eaten fish for dinner. She had eaten it well in the past, so no worries, right?

Naturally, she decided she didn’t like fish. Before it was done cooking and even before she had seen it.

I really should have said ‘chicken’. Odds are good she would have eaten it then.

So I played around with her a little. I had a topping on the fish, and she readily admitted that she loved the topping. It was a mix of bread crumbs, chopped cashews, honey and mustard. Really wonderful, and she admitted that she loved the topping.

So I told her about the nuts. Hey, the main part of the dinner was spoiled anyhow.

Immediately she announced that well… there was something in there she didn’t like and that was the nuts.

Cashews are the only nuts she likes when she admits to liking nuts. I know she was trying to play with my mind as much as I did with her when I mentioned the nuts. Besides, she kept nibbling it, if a bit slower.

Feeding kids is a funny thing. A favorite food one day is loathed another. And somehow it seems like just about all of them will eat any meat labeled ‘chicken’.

No matter what it really is.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 22nd, 2007

Graham Cracker House

I mentioned yesterday and the day before that I was going to help my kids make a graham cracker house this year before Christmas. It’s finally done and I thought I would share how we did it.

powdered sugar and egg white


graham crackers
assorted candies such as gum, spice drops, Spree, whatever you want to put on it
royal icing

Here’s the recipe for the royal icing:

1 egg white
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp lemon extract (or vanilla extract, but lemon leaves the mix whiter)

Beat egg whites in a bowl until foamy. Slowly add powdered sugar and lemon extract until completely blended.

crackers cut into triangles

I made one batch of this to assemble the house the first day, and a double batch the next for attaching the candy. How much you need depends on how extensive you let the decorating get.

I covered two cookie sheets with wax paper. Only needed one for building the house, but for making the walls I needed two.

Next I took one graham cracker and cut it into triangles using a butcher knife. One nice firm hit with the heel of my hand to break the crackers in a fairly straight line. Probably any knife long enough with an uncurved blade will do for the job.

graham cracker house sides

Because I knew the kids would want a big house, I used the icing to connect two crackers for each side, and used the triangles to make points to support the roof. I was pretty heavy handed with the icing. I forgot to borrow my mother’s cake decorating supplies to make this easier and neater. But I figured the excess would help to strengthen the crackers once it dried.

A cracker and a half made each of the roof panels. I measured along the triangles to figure that out.

I kept the royal icing in the fridge, covered lightly with a damp paper towel while these dried.

Once they were dry enough, I assembled the house. Without the right tools this was pretty difficult. I used a plastic baggie with a corner cut off to direct the icing as best I could. Not as good as regular cake decorating tips would do, but it helped to get the job done. (Note to self: Next time don’t forget to borrow the cake decorating tools!)

partially assembled graham cracker house

One roof segment cracked when I was trying to attach it, and by that point I had too little icing to do more than fix it. Not enough to save for reattaching it. So I fixed it and decided to reattach it today.

All that was yesterday. I wanted the icing very strong before I let the kids anywhere near anything.

This morning I reattached the roof, then coated it with frosting and shingled it with Necco wafers. This was the point at which I wondered if it would have been smarter to add them yesterday, before assembly. I had to hold them in place for several minutes to keep all the shingles from sliding down, off the roof.

This did later generate the thought that maybe decorating the sides in general would be easier to do as they lay flat on the wax paper. Only thing I don’t know is how that would impact the assembly of the house. Might have too many things in the way then.

Next I covered the surrounding wax paper with the royal icing and let the kids go at it. I did the decorating of the house itself, since the kids didn’t have the patience to hold the candies in one place long enough to do anything on the walls. But they did have a lot of fun placing candies and asking if they could eat another piece yet.

The pine tree and snowman made from spice drops were probably the most difficult. Dratted things took incredibly long to dry. I had to keep a hand on them for at least 15-20 minutes. The snowman was particularly stubborn.

Then I decided to add a little chocolate. I had decided early on that that would be the easiest way to give the snowman a face. So I melted some chocolate chips in the microwave, grabbed a toothpick and went to work. Then I added more chocolate to the house just because I could, and it was chocolate. Who needs more reason than that?

With everything finished, there was still more icing available. I decided that the last bits could be poured over the roof to make something of a snow effect. It was that or throw it out, and that just seemed like more fun.

All in all, I think it turned out rather well:

graham cracker house

[tags]christmas recipes,graham cracker house,candy[/tags]

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 17th, 2007

Taking Advantage of Holiday Food Prices

The holidays are an expensive time of year, on the whole. All the food, presents and travel really add up. But if you can stock up for other parts of the year, it can be a great time to do so.


For example, even though I’m not hosting Thanksgiving in my home, I bought a turkey. How often do you have a chance to get meat at $0.39 a pound? And a lot of other foods that you can stock up on may go on great sales as well.

Much as turkey can get boring long before the whole bird is gone. I generally find a good range of ways to use it. It makes fair stir fry, especially spiced up with turmeric or other spices that really change up the flavor.

The hard part, of course, is that a lot of Thanksgiving dinner ingredients are fresh, and not so easily frozen. But you can find some things to stock up on to save a bit in the long run.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 30th, 2007

Healthy Lunch Ideas for School

I’ve really been enjoying being able to choose what my daughter has for lunch at school. It’s been a bit of a challenge to my creativity, especially when I didn’t think about it the night before to ensure that basic ingredients would be ready.

Those are the days I resort to chicken soup in a thermos. It works well enough if not ideal.

The simplest way to make providing a healthy lunch easy has been to send leftovers in the thermos or to have something precooked, like pasta, and add veggies and a sauce to it. Very quick and simple pasta salads go over quite well.

I’m definitely not a fan of Lunchables and similar. I know a lot of people like them well enough but they really aren’t to my taste, mostly for nutritional reasons. I’d rather pick better quality meats and cheeses and make something like a Lunchable on my own for far less.

I always include one or two kinds of fresh fruit. Since my daughter is in kindergarten she gets both a snack and lunch. If the fruit is small, two kinds can keep things a little more interesting.

Fresh vegetables work really well for us too. Most common are carrot sticks or slices, but leftover salad, cauliflower and broccoli have gone over quite well on a regular basis. Then again my kids have what I understand to be a rare love of raw vegetables.

On occasion I do include something that is more of a treat, aside from the fruit. The school forbids candy, but we have sent shortcake with berries on top for a really fun dessert.

One of my best purchases was a container that could be split into several small sections. These are available in many forms, but I like the overall function of the Laptop Lunches bag from best. It has a lot more room than the little box I have right now, and once my daughter needs something a bit bigger, that’s what I’m getting.

Having a lunchbox that has compartments really does make packing healthy, interesting lunches easier. With my current little box I can pack a sandwich by cutting it in half and stacking it, then using the little compartments for veggies, sliced fruit, crackers or whatever. Or I can put pasta salad or other foods in place of the sandwich. I just love the flexibility.

Things I don’t pack include fruit snacks or rollups, the aforementioned Lunchables or anything else with too much sugar or overly processed. I’ve put a lot of effort in avoiding those at home, so I don’t want to suddenly add them just because my daughter eats lunch at school.

Do any of you have favorite school lunch recipes or ideas?

[tags]school lunch,lunch ideas,kid lunches,lunch,laptop lunches,healthy food[/tags]

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 7th, 2007

How Much Do Kids Prefer McDonald's?

Apparently a lot. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s real food from McDonald’s or carrots put into a McDonald’s wrapper. They’re pretty significantly preferred, as a rule.

I know my kids adore McDonald’s food. They don’t get it nearly as often as they’d like – once a month or so, unless we’re on vacation and eating out a lot and eating fast anyhow.

It’s an interesting perspective on just how much kids are impacted by advertising at a very young age. I don’t know if this would show up strongly with my son, as we can easily pass by a McDonald’s and he won’t care. My daughter on the other hand, I can see this working on her.

Of course, as my daughter has learned, just because she loves their food doesn’t mean she gets it very often. We keep that stuff pretty limited.

[tags]mcdonalds,kids,fast food[/tags]

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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